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Photos: Remembering the First Known Pow Wow Held in a U.S. Combat Zone by Native Americans

A story about the first known Native American Pow Wow held in a U.S. combat zone, in 2004 in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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In 2004, U.S. Army Sergeant Debra Mooney, Choctaw, and the 120th Engineer Combat Battalion staged the first pow wow held in a U.S. combat zone by Native Americans. The Native American Inter-Tribal Pow Wow was held in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to the National Museum of the American Indian, the two-day event, held at the Al Taqaddum Air Base near Fallujah, featured Native regalia, dancing and singing, and traditional games and foods, including genuine frybread. Participants made their pow wow drum from a discarded 55-gallon oil barrel and canvas from a cot. The goal of the pow wow was to bring a piece of home to Native Americans serving in Iraq while sharing their cultural heritage with fellow soldiers, marines, and sailors.

American Indians have served in the U.S. military since the American revolution, before they were allowed U.S. citizenship, and by percentage they serve more than any other ethnic group. The 120th Engineer Combat Battalion has its headquarters in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, also home to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Lower: Drum, stand, and drumsticks, 2004. Metal, canvas, wood, commercially tanned leather, plastic, nylon cord, adhesive tape, metal nails. Made by members of the U.S. Army's 120th Engineer Combat Battalion, headquartered in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and used during their Al Taqaddum Inter-Tribal Powwow, September 17–18, 2004, in Al Taqaddum, Iraq. Gift of Sergeant Debra K. Mooney and members of the 120th Engineer Combat Battalion.

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

US Army USA) Soldiers of Native American Indian heritage, participate in a game of Native American Indian Stick Ball during the Native American Inter-Tribal Pow Wow held at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Pow Wow was held to honor all past, present, and future Native American Veterans, and this events marks the first time that a Pow Wow was held in a Combat Zone by Native Americans

Native American Indians came from all over Iraq to play a game of Native American Indian Stick Ball during the Native American Inter-Tribal Pow Wow that was held on Al Taqaddum near Fallujah on the 17-18th of September 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Pow Was planned from start to finish in less than five weeks, and all the items from the tomahawks to the drum was hand-made by the Native Americans in Iraq. The Pow Wow was held to honor all past, present, and future Native American Veterans, this was the first time that a Pow Wow was held in a Combat Zone by Native Americans. Photo by SFC Johancharles Van Boers (Apache/Cherokee), 55th Signal Company, Combat Camera, Fort Meade, Maryland. "Released for Public Use"

National Museum of the American Indian

Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 120th Engineer Combat Battalion headquartered in Okmulgee, Oklahoma) participating in a tomahawk throwing contest. Man throws a tomahawk at a wooden post while others look on NMAI object 265139.000) . Photo taken during the powwow events held at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq in 2004.